25 5 / 2013
Yesterday, four friends and I traveled to Adrenaline Forest, just a short drive north of Christchurch. It’s a huge ropes course network in a lovely forest with a view of the ocean.
There are seven different courses, ranging from 2 to 23 meters high. We got a (very brief) safety lecture, then were let loose on the course for the next three hours.
We were required to begin on one of the lower courses, so we started with course number 1.
…then moved onto number 3.
The most awkward of obstacles…
One of the courses was made entirely of zip lines. I was too excited to take any photos.
Kim loves heights!
Lateral logs, you can go die now.
View of the forest from the highest course!
There were some very interesting obstacles on this course.
The scariest part was free-swinging over to this net!
“Barrels,” also known as “drag your body through weird animal poop.”
Julia is trying not to think about the poop in the barrels.
Kim just doesn’t care.
Awwwww yeah best part.
Sorry there are no photos of me! Passing my camera to someone else while 20 meters in the air didn’t seem like a good idea.
19 5 / 2013
All of my friends in Oberlin are talking about summer plans and being done with finals, and all of my friends who were abroad this semester are now returning to the states. I’ve still got 6 weeks left in this beautiful country. 2 weeks of classes, 3 weeks of finals, and a week of exploring after that. Can’t say I’m complaining… Wish I didn’t have so many papers to write and exams to take though (I guess that’s what happens when you sign up for 5 classes?)
16 5 / 2013
I don’t have class on Thursdays, and today I wandered through the botanic gardens instead of sleeping in.
This is the Peacock Fountain, at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens.
I <3 Ginkgo Trees. This one was really fun to climb.
The center of the park featured a beautiful rose garden.
What a beautiful place.
06 5 / 2013
Homemade bread, cheese, and kale soup.
(Sorry I am lacking in NZ scenery photos due to an overload in schoolwork/lack of money/lack of time to go away on the weekend. So you’re stuck with photos of my food.)
06 5 / 2013
nobody is partying outside my window late at night and I get to fall asleep to the sounds of rain pattering on the roof as a pose to thumping bass.
05 5 / 2013
And better yet, baked in a convection microwave.
Thank you, OSCA cookbook.
30 4 / 2013
kidney beans/chick peas/tomatoes/onions/green peppers/carrots/garlic/chili seasoning/cumin/kumara/cinnamon/coriander/cilantro/sour cream/cheese
and green beans.
30 4 / 2013
Today was the first day since I’ve been in Christchurch that I’ve had to walk home from class in the rain. Speaks to how little it rains here. Quite a contrast from Northeast Ohio, where I wear my rain boots upwards of four days a week.
28 4 / 2013
I traveled to Kaikoura this weekend with Dive HQ Christchurch to complete the open water dive portion of my certification. (I completed the lecture and pool sessions last fall at Oberlin.) The water was FREEZING, but the weather was amazing so it was warm when we got out of the water. It did take my fingers a good half hour to start functioning again, however. We spent most of the time sitting on the sandy bottom practicing skills, like clearing a flooded mask, sharing air with a buddy, etc, so we didn’t get to see a whole lot. The visibility was really poor, especially when we kicked up a bunch of sand. BUT it was a good time, I am officially certified, the certification is good for my whole life, so I can go diving whenever and wherever I please!
25 4 / 2013
After leaving Fiordland, we headed south through Te Anau and did a short walk on the Kepler Track, another of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It was quite boring, actually, after experiencing the Routeburn and Fiordland. We didn’t have enough time to make it up to the good views on the Kepler.
We stayed at an amusing and pretty questionable backpacker’s in Invercargill that was recommended to us by a woman we met in Milford. He did have a hot tub, though, which was really nice.
Next, we headed to the Catlins Coast, on the Southern coast of New Zealand.
We met some sea lions at our first stop in the Catlins, and quite literally almost ran into one that was sleeping in the grass.
We also learned about the isolated lives that lighthouse keepers lived on the coast. The lighthouses are still functioning, but are now run by computers instead of people.
We visited the southern-most point of the South Island, which was pretty anti-climactic, but cool nonetheless.
The Catlins Coast is very interesting. It is definitely the least-touristey place that we visited. The western end of the park is mostly private farmland. We had to walk through sheep pastures to get to Slope Point. Most of the roads are gravel as well. It got slightly more national-parky as we moved East.
We visited a petrified forest, which is a beautifully preserved Jurassic-aged forest that was buried in volcanic ash slurry and preserved. The bottoms of the trunks are still there, and large logs that were carried by the slurry lie flat on the beach.
I found a brachiopod shell. No big deal. Brachiopods were almost completely wiped out at the end-Permain mass extinction and replaced by bivalves (the clams and mussels that we know well). Only a few rare species of brachiopods survive today.
We explored Cathedral Caves, sea caves only accessible at low tide.
Even at low tide, waves washed into the caves under our feet.
(*Photocred to Camille Dwyer)
Here’s Camille checking out the outcrop.
And here I am teaching Sarah about coal.
We walked to McLean Falls. Gorgeous, as usual.
These cows were very suspicious of us.
Take a close look: there are yellow-eyed penguins in this photo. They are the rarest species of penguin in the world. We were only allowed to view them from a distance to protect them.
Nugget Point, Catlins
That night, we were planning on camping at a campground. The one we found was $14 per person, pretty typical for NZ holiday parks. Somehow we managed to convince the owner of the park to let us stay in a cabin with two bunks a double bed for $17.50 per person. One less cold and cramped night for us. Win. Again. We also ate burritos for dinner that night again. Best camping meal ever.
The next morning, we woke up for the sunrise on the beach.
Then headed north for Dunedin. Dunedin is known to be a lively college town, and we were excited to be there on a Friday night. We got all excited, and went out to find a nightclub. Every bar and nightclub we went to had literally about four people in them. Apparently students at the University of Otago party on Thursday and Saturday nights, not on Friday. We had a good time anyways, and met some pretty funny people along the way.
We slept in the next day, then went to the steepest street in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records: Baldwin Street.
It was difficult to capture how steep this street was.
On our way back to Christchurch, we stopped in Oamaru hoping to see more penguins. Turns out, you have to pay to see them in Oamaru, and we would’ve had to wait two hours for them to come out anyways. We did learn that Oamaru is the steampunk capital of New Zealand, though, and we found this awesome steampunk playground that would never pass US safety standards.
(notice the hamster wheel on the left)
We finally made it back to Christchurch around 7:30 pm. We cheered, celebrated our car for not breaking down, and celebrated for the world’s best road trip.
24 4 / 2013
Fiordland (yes, that’s spelled wrong. It should be “fjordland.” Blame New Zealand for that one, not me.)
After finishing the Routeburn Track, we drove into Milford Sound. We stopped at a few waysides along the way, one was a beautiful gorge with some impressive water erosional features. It was raining, but it was still gorgeous. There is so much water in Fiordland. It is unbelievable. There is water everywhere. It rains 220 days out of the year there, and the lush rainforest and gushing rivers tell that story.
Here is a Kea trying to eat our car.
Kea are endangered, although you wouldn’t know it based on how often we saw them. They are the world’s only alpine parrot, and also the world’s smartest parrots. They hang out a lot around people, eating shoes and backpacks and cars…
One of the first things we did was drive through this slightly terrifying 1.5- km-long-one-lane tunnel towards Milford.
(Yes, those are tiny waterfalls in the background. A common sight all over Milford.)
We arrived at Milford Lodge, the only place to stay in Milford Sound. Camille and I decided it would be a good idea to camp to save money, and Sarah and Julia stayed inside in the backpacker facility.
We woke up very wet in the morning, and joined Sarah and Julia indoors for the following night. Thank you, K-mart tent.
We booked a kayaking tour in Milford Sound for that morning. When we woke up, it was pouring rain, windy, and cold. Rosco of Rosco’s Milford Kayaks showed up at the Milford Lodge to negotiate options. He offered us a boat cruise for the morning and a kayak in the afternoon, if the rain cleared up, for a small price upgrade. We debated and fretted about money, but decided to take the offer.
We boarded the Spirit of Milford and got free breakfast on board.
Little did we know, the absolute best time to go to Milford Sound is during a rainstorm. Milford comes alive in the rain. There are literally thousands of waterfalls pouring down sheer cliffs on the sides of the fjord that only appear in the rain. There are only two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound, but we saw thousands.
Most people took shelter from the rain on the lower decks, but we braved the storm and hung out on the upper deck in the wind and rain.
SOMEBODY decided it was a good idea for my to let my hair loose.
Why, yes, this is a hanging valley with a waterfall pouring off of it.
They took us through the entire fjord during the cruise, and we went all the way to the Tasman Sea. We had a blast. By pure magic, the rain cleared up for the afternoon for our kayak.
Our guides were awesome, and took us on a much longer kayak than we paid for because the weather was so amazing, and then they never ended up charging us extra for the cruise. So…. we got a free cruise? Winning, again.
Sidenote: Milford Sound should actually be called Milford Fjord. A sound is a valley carved out by rivers and flooded by the sea, and a fjord is carved by glaciers and flooded by the sea. Milford Sound is definitely a fjord (did you see those beautiful u-shaped valleys?). Way to go, New Zealand. They tried to fix their error in calling Milford a sound by calling the entire park “Fiordland,” but then they spelled “fjord” wrong.
Here we are suiting up for kayaking.
…and paddling under a waterfall (that was gone by the time we finished kayaking. The waterfalls disappear that quickly.)
I can’t even describe how beautiful it was.
We had the benefit of paddling without getting rained on, but there were still thousands of waterfalls because it had rained so recently.
We also saw bottlenose dolphins, which are only seen once every two(ish) weeks. I was too distracted by watching them to take any photos.
The next morning, the clouds had completely cleared, so we climbed up to Gertrude’s Saddle.
Might be the best view yet. That’s hard though. Too many good views.
There was a gorgeous alpine lake along the way that I desperately wanted to swim in, but it was far too cold. I must come back.
There was also a really sweet quartz vein in the stream along the way.
It blows my mind that Fiordland and Arthur’s Pass are both glacial landscapes, but they look so different.
23 4 / 2013
The Milford Track is known as “The Greatest Walk in the World,” and I heard from multiple people that the Routeburn Track is better, so that means that the Routeburn Track must be the true Greatest Walk in the World. I believe it, at least.
One of New Zealands Great Walks, the Routeburn Track begins just north of Glenorchy in Mt. Aspiring National Park, and ends near Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park.
Here we are at the beginning of the Routeburn Track. This is a pretty stellar group shot.
(*Photocred to Sarah Backer, again, the greatest group photo taker of all time)
The beginning ascended gently through gorgeous beech forest, following a river that had the most beautiful water I have ever seen in my life. It was crystal clear, cold, and had a slight blue tinge.
Everything was so green.
This trail is highly traveled, and even included toilets along the way!
We reached Routeburn Flats shortly after.
We had a snack at Routeburn Flats, then continued climbing towards Routeburn Falls. A recent landslide provided amazing views of the flat below as we were climbing.
Around mid-afternoon, we arrived at the Routeburn Falls Hut. Because the Great Walks are so highly used, the Department of Conservation has built huts along the trails to reduce impact on the local environment. The huts along the Routeburn are quite extensive. They had around 50 beds, and also included kitchen facilities. This meant that we did not have to carry a camp stove, gas, a tent, or sleeping mats. It is also safe to drink water straight out of the rivers there, so we did not need to bring any form of water filtration either. The huts were quite expensive, unfortunately, but we splurged on it for the experience. For the more frugal tramper, there are campsites available, but they are not as conveniently located (and it would be really cold).
Before dinner, we climbed to an viewpoint overlooking the valley we had just climbed from.
and did yoga (duh).
The hut warden at Routeburn Falls Hut challenged us to name 20 of the languages on this tapestry, with a chocolate bar as our prize. We worked really hard on it, but only got 17 correct. Bummer.
(can you do it?)
We had burritos for dinner that night. It was actually the best.
Routeburn Falls Hut lies right on the treeline, so we spent the next day walking above the treeline with some incredible views.
(There’s the Routeburn Falls Hut, and the Routeburn Falls Lodge, for guided walkers)
Here’s Lake Harris, just before the Harris Saddle, where you cross into Fiordland National Park.
The alpine streams were unbelievable gorgeous. I really enjoyed the alpine vegetation too. There was bright green, yellow, sage green, dark green, and brown intermixed with bright red berries and flowers, frosty lichens, and green, grey, and purple rocks. Crystal clear, cold water cascaded down these rocks through the lush vegetation, tumbling over waterfalls into deep clear pools.
At the Harris Saddle, we left our packs in a shelter and climbed to Conical Hill for a fantastic overlook.
We could see the Tasman Sea from Conical Hill, although you can’t see it in this photo.
We continued along the side of the mountain above the treeline, and continued to have fantastic views. It began to cloud over as we went along, and we were in a cloud by the time we began our descent to Lake Mackenzie Hut.
We went back down under the treeline, and walked through a different, but equally beautiful, beech forest.
The next day, it was predicted to rain all day. We prepared ourselves with all of our rain gear. It sprinkled a bit in the morning, but we totally defied the weather gods. We made it to the base of the Key Summit side trail, and the rain had completely cleared. The views from Key Summit were unbelievable.
The rain was coming, though. We watched it come towards us through the valley.
Five minutes after we reached the shelter at the end of the track, it started raining. Win.
Here is our celebratory group shot.
As if my magic, our car was in the car park at the end of the track. The Trackhopper people had kindly purchased more oil for us with our gas money, and filled it up for us. New Zealand hospitality, that’s what that is.
23 4 / 2013
This semester, I am taking 5 classes, and I am in class for 11 hours a week. Last semester, I took only 3 classes, and I was in class for 18 hours a week. hmmm…
22 4 / 2013
After finishing at Fox Glacier, we drove South to Haast, and down the Haast Highway through Mt. Aspiring National Park. We stopped at many roadside walks along the way.
There was MORE amazing schist around here.
In the middle of Haast Pass, we climbed to an overlook.
And to the Blue Pools, which also lived up to their name.
We camped that night alongside Lake Wanaka. I’m surprised that I do not have any photos of the place, because it was gorgeous. We watched The Notebook in the tent before bed, like true girls.
I did, however, take a photo of the back of the car. It actually looks pretty organized by this point in the trip. It got much worse.
In Wanaka, Julia and I rested our sore muscles in the sun while Camille and Sarah tramped on to the Rocky Mountain overlook. Julia and I also went to the Puzzling World and went through a life-sized maze, then played with puzzles and mind games in the lobby.
We then headed off for Queenstown. Stayed in this excellent backpackers there.
We ran into three other UC students in Queenstown, and we went out to a few bars together. It was a Wednesday night, but Queenstown is always a party.
The next day, we relaxed and spent some time in Queenstown. Sarah climbed to an overlook because she is hard-core. The rest of us spent the day wandering around the town, pretending to do some homework, and looking at photos. Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world, and bungee jumping was invented there. I, however, have no desire to go bungee jumping. Jumping 10 meters into a river off of a bridge during field camp was plenty of adrenaline for me. The most enjoyable part of my day involved walking along the lake shore, exploring the Queenstown Gardens, and stretching and doing some yoga among the rose bushes.
Before we left Queenstown, we dropped our spare car key off with the Routeburn Trackhopper, and paid them to move our car from one end of the Routeburn Track to the other. They were really nice people. Looked up the weather forecast for us, helped us check the oil level in the car, and let me pet their adorable Border Collie (I miss my dogs.) We drove to Glenorchy that evening, and prepared for our walk along the Routeburn Track.
Here we are (minus Sarah) by the lake in Glenorchy the morning before our backpacking trip.
(*Photocred to Sarah Backer)
21 4 / 2013
Our trip began when Camille arrived at Cass field station on Sunday the 7th. As soon as we started packing the car, we realized that we would not be able to fit everything in the back of the car, and needed to fill one of the back seats. We built a tower in the middle seat, and quickly realized that it would be more comfortable to shove the tower to one side of the car and put the two people in the middle seat and the seat to the left. It was quite an amusing sight. Here’s me and Camille sitting next to the leaning tower of the back seat:
Yep. It was crowded.
The trip started off on an excellent note. We drove through Arthur’s Pass, over the scary overpass, through the mountains, and down to the green and beautiful West Coast.
Just outside of Hokitika, we found the trail to Mt. Brown Hut, which was recommended to Julia and Sarah by some random guy in Abel Tasman. It was a four-hour walk, straight up Mt. Brown. Walking through the lush rainforest was captivating.
The day started out clear, but it clouded over by the time we made it to the top. We came up above the treeline and arrived at the lovely Mt. Brown hut just as the sun was beginning to set. We couldn’t see much because we were in a cloud, but the empty, beautiful hut was a welcome sight.
This is one of the remote huts in New Zealand. It is maintained completely by volunteers, and is free to stay in. It had 4 bunks, perfect for the four of us, and also came with a coal-burning heater.
It got quite warm in there. We relaxed, ate pasta and beans (like we do), and Camille wrote postcards by candlelight. A few hours after dark, we could see the lights of Hokitika in the distance.
The next morning, we woke up to clear skies, and saw an incredible sunrise.
The view was unbelievable. We wandered along the ridge at the top for a while before leaving.
(See the top of the hut?)
We took an obligatory group photo before we left. It is one of our best from the trip.
(*Photocred to Sarah Backer, the group photo expert.)
After we climbed down, we headed south to Franz Josef Glacier.
The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are similar to the glaciers on the other side of the main divide at Mt. Cook National Park, except they have a much steeper slope, much less debris, and move at a faster rate. The valleys at Franz Josef and Fox are different too. The lateral moraines are much smaller due to the smaller amount of debris cover on the glacier, and there were waterfalls cascading down from both sides of the valley.
There were also beautiful, shiny, heavily folded schist pebbles and boulders filling the valley. We found a really sweet erosional feature on one side of the valley. Julia and I went surfing. She is better at it than me.
Here we all are at the Franz Josef Glacier.
(*Photocred to some random tourist on the trail.)
Here is an ice arch at the terminus of the glacier.
We were warned about rockfalls and icefalls.
…and Julia made friends with the plastic man.
We stayed in Franz Josef village that night. We camped, and rented hot water bottles for free from the holiday park. A hot water bottle is a bottle that you fill with boiling water and then you sleep with it. It’s like having a mini heater with you in your sleeping bag. Amazing.
The next day, we drove to Fox Glacier. We visited Lake Matheson, which is famous for postcard-worthy reflections of Mt. Cook. It lived up to its reputation.
There was sphagnum moss along the trail. I was very excited about it.
I liked Fox Glacier better than Franz Josef. The crevasses were really neat.
We watched some people walking on the glacier for a guided tour.